The horse world is an amazing place full of thousands of different ideas and philosophies and horses & people of all genders, ages and stages! But with the endless choices in horse sports and pursuits, there is one common dirty word that is often shamefully shoved under the rug; the "F" word in riding .. fear. And to clarify, for the purposes of this article, I will use the word fear to encompass everything from clear heart-pounding fear symptoms, mild anxiety, hesitation, persistent dream shattering un-confidence and everything in between.
I would wager that every person who rides horses, has experienced the discomfort of fear at some point in their life. Fear can be defined as a normal human response where the person is threatened by a perceived threat. It is important to understand that "perceived" threat simply means anytime your brain is triggered to believe that your bodily safety is compromised. The interesting part is that there are so many situations that can trigger your brain to perceive danger! Some of them are rarely spoken about and often not acknowledged - let's dive into some of the most common:
1. Falling/Accident with a Horse
Of course the most common root cause of fear in riders is being harmed by a horse. Whether that be actually falling from a horse or being harmed while handling the horse. Many riders find after a single accident, their brain becomes very skilled at creating further scenarios of how future injuries could potentially happen .. even if the risk is small!
2. Natural Aging
There are several common factors to human bodies as they age. First, it is a proven fact that the body's ability to heal and recover from injury declines over time. Second, beginning as early as our 30's, our natural balance begins to decrease with each passing year due to physical changes such as muscle loss or vision changes. Instinctively, as we age, our brain becomes keenly focused on protecting the body from harm.
3. Trauma in the form of Injury, Illness or Surgery
The commonality between injury, illness or surgery to any part of the body is .. weakness. Anytime our physical well being is compromised, the brain understands that the body is exhibiting a weakness and again that human instinct to protect the body takes over!
For both men & women, when a child is born, their bodies change drastically. When people become parents, their protective instincts towards the child instantly kick in! But in addition to protecting the child itself from harm, the parents brain has a strong instinct to protect the body, in order to be able to care for the child dependant on us for survival. This can result in a natural decrease in desire to pursue activities which are perceived by the brain to have a higher "risk" for injury!
It is to be expected that throughout our lives as riders, at some point we will experience some degree of fear while handling or riding our horses. But traditionally, riders who are fearful feel deep levels of shame and are hesitant to voice the challenges they face .. for fear of ridicule or by being encouraged into "tough love" situations of pushing through their fears.
In the next part of this topic, I will cover some amazing things you can do to recover from fear!! A little hint? The Simulator can help ....
Shannon & Marmite
Every person has a natural crookedness in their body. Crookedness and imbalance in the body can be as a result of a great many things: age & gravity, illness/injury/surgery, emotions of anxiety or fear, repetitive habit from daily living and time in the saddle, just to name a few. When we begin to study a rider's seat and posture, at first glance it may appear that the crookedness is originating, and isolated, to one part of the body! But as I have learned over many years of teaching riders, our amazing bodies are designed so that crookedness or imbalance in one part of the body often translates into several others! The brilliance of a piece of the technology such as the Riding Simulator, is that it allows us to accurately map the pathway of crookedness in the body.
I always start with the feet and work my way up. One of the most common imbalances I see in riders is they position one foot ahead of the other. The Simulator has a square of black matting under both legs and this gives us opportunity to measure & compare where the legs hang on both the right and left side. With the use of mirrors and the ability to me to walk from one side to the other, we can quickly identify if one foot is ahead of another.
But it isn't necessarily about the feet! With the Simulator's diagnostic ability, we can then identify if the imbalance extends through the seat bones, up through the hips and even into the torso and shoulders! In some instances, the imbalance in the feet is a symptom of a crookedness or imbalance in the seat bones or hips .. and sometimes the reverse is true! Its a little like trying to determine what came first - the chicken or the egg?!
An appointment for a session with the Riding Simulator is the best way I have found to give riders insight to what is happening in their bodies .. from the horse's point of view! And take comfort knowing that every rider has some form of crookedness or imbalance. The first step to making positive change in your riding is awareness!
~ Shannon & Marmite